If Hillary Clinton’s becomes Barack Obama’s Secretary of State, Governor David Paterson fills her vacancy in the Senate.
Speculation began immediately about what he might do, and here, compiled with the help of readers, is a rundown of some of the possibilities. The list is not comprehensive. It is not scientific. It is not presented in order of seriousness. Enjoy.
When asked if he’d be a good Senator, his top political aide, Kevin Sheekey, emailed to say, “Lots of interesting possibilities in N.Y.”
No other issue is more pertinent to the incoming administration, or federal lawmakers, than the economy. And despite his push to extend term limits in order to stay in City Hall, an appointment to Clinton’s seat would give Bloomberg a chance at moving to a high-profile national post instead of serving for what promises to be an unpleasantly challenging third term.
The problem is, well, he's not a Democrat. And unless he becomes one, it's pretty likely to be a deal-breaker.
Andrew Cuomo or Tom Suozzi
Cuomo will not like this statement, but the calculations that would go into picking either of them are similar. They’re white, downstate Catholic Democrats who are ambitious and could be potential challengers to Paterson in a future governor’s race. Both have built reputations on pocketbook issues: Cuomo, with his crackdown on the student-loan industry, Suozzi by way of his turnaround of Nassau County’s finances.
The drawbacks, for both them, include the fact that they've each rubbed a bunch of powerful Democrats the wrong way and that, as white males succeeding a woman, they wouldn't do much for the cause of diversity.
She’s not a freshman anymore and she just defeated a well-financed Republican challenger in a Republican-leaning district in Albany. Gillibrand even fended off a late-in-the-game attack about her relationship to the tobacco industry.
Gillibrand has taken positions against the Democratic establishment (opposing Spitzer’s driver’s license plan, voted against the bailout), painting herself as a moderate Democrat, able to reach across the aisle, which is what Obama says he’d like to see more of in Washington, and what Paterson is trying to be in New York.
Drawbacks include her relative inexeperience in Washington, and low name-recognition outside the district. Also, the more senior members of the New York congressional delegation will certainly consider themselves more ready for the job than a one-term lawmaker.
No, really. He’s a socially moderate African-American with experience in the private sector before being elected to the State Senate. He helped build housing in Southeast Queens and is a supporter of charter schools, which Republicans also favor, giving him a platform to be a post-partisan Senator not unlike what Obama is calling for right now.
It would also get him out of Albany, where some Democrats have expressed reluctance to support him.
Of course, that very thing–his still-unsteady position as leader of his party in the Senate–is what makes the idea of kicking him upstairs seem a little crazy in the first place. This will probably have occurred to Paterson, should the idea come up.
An African-American congressman from Southeast Queens, a former Assemblyman and assistant district attorney, he's a longtime friend of David Paterson.
Meeks raised his national profile with an early endorsement of John Kerry in 2004, and hasn’t lost his eye for the larger stage. He’s voted with Republicans in the past on issues about personal bankruptcy and free trade, but has otherwise been a Democratic stalwart.
She’s a woman, she’s from Westchester, and she’s been eyeing that Senate seat since before the Clintons moved to Chappaqua.
Her records on issues like abortion rights, gun control, the environment, Israel and public broadcasting help make her a Democrat in universally good standing within the party. (Also: she's nice.)
She’s the first openly gay speaker of the City Council, and this appointment would make her the first openly gay U.S. Senator.
Quinn has had (until recently, at least) a close working relationship with Bloomberg, enabling her to take partial credit for many of the city’s most popular initiatives (rezoning the West Side, developing Willets Point, recycling plastic bags, etc). Her good standing with labor unions and business groups have erased her long-ago image as a lefty radical from the West Village.
It’s unclear whether she could win election statewide. Plus there’s the City Council slush fund debacle, which is still unresolved since the U.S. Attorney and city Department of Investigations have not issued their findings on the matter.
He's a strong campaigner and has positioned himself as the sort of middle-class populist that's in vogue in these tough economic times.
Then again, the idea of having New York represented in the Senate by Chuck Schumer and a miniature rendering of Chuck Schumer (politically speaking, of course) might freak people out.
She's a woman, she's experienced, she's spawned a mini-universe of Democratic operatives and officials who will support her in most things, she wants the Senate seat, and she won't be shy about making that desire known.
Not an aisle-crosser, or a classically gifted retail politician. But one of the sharpest minds in Congress.
It would be about as serious a gesture of goodwill by Paterson toward upstate New York as can be imagined. (They're excited up in his neck of the state already.)
UPDATE: Readers, including a couple in the comments section, note that the governor could also consider appointing a Latino elected official to fill the vacancy, which, among other things, would help him win over an increasingly powerful constituency at home in the run up to his 2010 election.
One possibility would be Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion, a former City Councilman trained in urban planning who also is the president of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. He eyed a mayoral run before settling on the city comptroller’s race. He’s a young, post-Civil Rights generation elected official who has often spoken about bridging the divide between various ethnic communities.
Another possibility is Nydia Velazquez, whose congressional district includes portions of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. She chairs the House Small Business Committee, and was an outspoken supporter of Hillary Clinton.
Also, the AP’s Devlin Barrett, in an early-jockeying write-up, includes two names I didn’t: Bobby Kennedy and Steve Israel.